“Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories”
Do you want to wild camp in your motorhome? Already wild camping in your motorhome? Then read on for top tips and advice about how to wild camp in a motorhome like an expert!
How to Wild Camp in a Motorhome
Lots of people ask us how to wild camp in a motorhome. Do you just turn up and well…park, and then carry on as usual? Well, pretty much, yes! It helps to be prepared of course but there is no reception to check into, no electric to plug in, no site rules to read and best of all, no bill to pay!
Top Tips for Boondocking Beginners
Read our guide for the basic rules and tips about how to wild camp in a motorhome, to help you stay safe and enjoy that amazing view in the best way possible. If you’re an experienced wild camper, you may want to ignore the tips and advice and head for our favourite locations!
Boondocking in a Motorhome – The Important Stuff
Most countries have laws regarding how to wild camp in your motorhome. Just to confuse matters, some areas of some countries have different laws. As a responsible motorhome wild camper you must understand these or you risk being moved on or getting a fine.
Much of Scandinavia is covered by The “Allemannsrätt”, or “Right of Public Access”, allows inhabitants and visitors of Sweden, Norway and Danmark to exercise a lot of outdoor activities, even if they take place on private ground. Land owners must respect this right and may not undertake any actions to prevent the public from access to land that falls under the Allemannsrätt.
Such activities are for instance pitching up a tent on non-cultivated ground, hiking or skiing pretty much anywhere, horse riding on public and private roads, picking wild berries, flowers and mushrooms, etc. All this is allowed under certain conditions, of which the most important is: “Don’t disturb – don’t destroy!”.
For more details visit the agency’s web site under: Naturvårdsverket.
Warning: Hunting and Fishing are not covered by the Allemannsrätt!
In Germany “Wild Camping” is illegal! “Overnight Parking” however is not.
As long as you simply pull up onto a car park where it is legal to park your van and spend one night there this is Overnight Parking. If you have a drink or meal before bedtime and take a shower and have breakfast before leaving next morning this is still Overnight Parking.
If you put anything outside of your van (like camping furniture), roll out an awning, run a generator, fire up a barbeque or do anything else like that then this is considered as Wild Camping. Usually it is also considered as Wild Camping if you stay on the same spot for more than 24 hours. As a rule of thumb one can say that as long as you could drive off at any time without leaving the vehicle or leaving anything behind, then you are Parking.
Assess your spot and the general area; if it feels safe, it probably is. If you’re unsure, move on; always trust your gut instinct on this.
Have a plan should the worst happen….we carry a large Mag-lite torch, a legitimate item for a camper to have!
Don’t go out and flaunt your stuff; your nice watch and camera may feel like everyday items to you but to thieves looking for an opportunity they are advertising your lifestyle; people living in poorer parts of Europe and the UK will see living in a motorhome as a luxurious existence, even though we know it’s not!
There are some areas in Europe (particularly around cities) where gangs of motorhome thieves operate, particularly where motorhome wild camping is popular. They park up in their own clapped out motorhome and watch for people like us to park up and head out…boom, your pride and joy is being nicked whilst you’re enjoying an ice-cream somewhere. Check on-line and in forums for the latest info, feedback on the apps is also very helpful and gives you first hand experience from other travellers, or with the local police / tourist office. If in doubt, park on a site.
Using levelling devices, having your step out or windows open and your satellite dish being up can all be viewed as signs of ‘camping’, which may be against the law….be aware and pack up before you go to bed.
For us, motorhome wild camping means boondocking!. It doesn’t mean parking on a residential street outside someone’s house to save money; we think that’s just rude and inconsiderate to the people who live in the neighbourhood and is not how to Boondock in a motorhome!
Some popular motorhome Boondocking spots, by the sea for example, often will have signs warning of ‘no camping’, this is also often the case within national parks. Our experience is that out of season, wild camping will probably be tolerated if you are discreet. In season, ignore the signs at your peril!
Leave no trace! Never, ever leave rubbish behind or empty your gray or black waste at a motorhome boondocking spot, respect the local environment and the people and animals who live there.
We have boondocked in our motorhome in hundreds, probably thousands, different locations throughout Europe and have never felt unsafe or concerned about having roof-lights and windows open as we sleep. However, it is important to understand the risks and assess for each particular spot on arrival.
Planning to Boondock in a Motorhome
We use a combination of Park4Night, Searchforsites and Google Maps, ‘Street View’, there are other apps but we think Park4Night is the best because it always gives the most options. Check out other apps and resources here.
You may be restricted due to the size and weight of your van, check your route prior to setting off; it’s pretty devastating to get 100m from the idyllic lakeside spot you picked for the night, only to find you can’t actually get there….it’s happened to us more than once!
Use a compass to work out sunrise and sunset and park accordingly….we have woken to some amazing sunrises viewed from bed (with a cup of tea, of course!) because we parked the right way! A 360º panoramic view means you have hit the wild camping jackpot and can see both sunrise and sunset.
Don’t turn up and park within a metre of another van, even though it may improve your view….this is not neighbourly behaviour!
Always have a second option in mind so that if you arrive and it’s not right you can move on.
Don’t expect every spot to be idyllic! For every perfect motorhome wild camping spot, there are ten so-so places which do the job but are not Insta worthy!
It is much, much easier to find good, quiet places in the mountains or inland than by the sea or a lake; if you want to be by the water be prepared for it to be a bit more like a car park.
Take time to step out and enjoy the zero light pollution and amazing night sky.
The very nature of boondocking in a motorhome means you need to be self-sufficient.
Ensure your motorhome or van is set up for wild camping, check this post about equipment and options for more information.
We suggest you need the following;
- solar panels, 1 x 120w at least. A good rule of thumb for solar is 1watt for each battery amp hour.
- good leisure batteries; we carry 4 x 110ah in two banks of 2 each with their own separate solar feed, two would probably be sufficient but the extra bank gives us a bit of extra if we want to stay put for a few days and the weather is dull.
- full gas bottles for your heating, hot water and cooking; it gets bloody cold overnight in the mountains
- enough fresh water for your needs.it also helps to have emptied your loo fairly recently!
A note on this; mixed propane/butane gas (as supplied in Europe) does not always perform well over 2,000ft and can cause your boiler to sound like a freight train! It’s nothing to worry about but a bit alarming the first time it happens.
If you find yourself with a full loo, consider the following;
if you don’t use chemicals in your loo, you can empty your waste into any toilet, BUT you should make sure that you can keep the area properly clean after you have emptied.
take a fold up shovel, dig and hole and do it the old-fashioned way!
carry a spare cassette, this will give you twice as long out in the wilds!
Don’t get caught in a remote spot with nothing to eat, or worse no wine!
Understand how your motorhome works.
It may sound obvious but if you’re wondering why your solar panel has stopped charging your leisure batteries at 11pm, then you’re not really understanding the fundamentals!
We cook out a lot, but always carry stuff we can cook easily inside; eggs or filled pasta for example. Cooking out in the rain in a wild camping spot where you don’t want to get your awning out is really no fun!
The one thing you don’t need is a mobile signal, which is great as you probably won’t get one anyway!
Now you know how to wild camp in a motorhome, pack up, get out there and do it!